Closing the Book on Codrescu

Andrei Codrescu is a nitwit. As someone who lived in Baton Rouge for 12 very long years, I greeted the opening of the Barnes & Noble there with some trepidation. As so often happens, it drove a number of smaller, mom-and-pop bookstores out of business, which I think is a shame even though those tiny bookstores never had much anyway. True, I couldn't always find what I needed at B&N, but it was brighter, airier, and you were always bound to meet someone there you hadn't seen in years. That is partially the place's main drawback -- it is always crowded. There is nothing to do in Baton Rouge for anyone with a semblance of a brain who doesn't want to drink (alcohol, that is, not coffee, which is present at B&N in abundance) or hang out at one of the enormous malls.

And this is where Codrescu -- as pretentious a nitwit as ever drew breath -- goes awry ("The Barnes & Noble in Baton Rouge," April 30). Where else is anyone who is remotely intelligent going to go in Baton Rouge? While he's on his high horse, looking down his Romanian nose at all things American and snorting thereupon, calmly and blithely pooh-poohing, haw-hawing and cooing "ain't that cute" about vacuous American culture (a term even I use loosely), he should stop and think what the alternatives are. He already has, elsewhere, ad infinitum. Give Baton Rouge a break.

By the way, Codrescu should be thankful someone's even remotely interested in his book to arrange a signing tour. His essay sounds like immigrant whining that the B&N staff recognized a has-been writer whose books no one is going to buy and refused to kowtow and grovel at his Transylvanian toes. I hope they open a Barnes & Noble in Codrescu's corner of Bucharest and see the way that those who pass for the cultured there line up for Harry Potter and the Idiot's Guides. I'm sure the lines will be much shorter for Casanova in Bohemia.

Maybe he'd like Barnes and Noble better if they hawked that piece of pretentious claptrap, the Exquisite Corpse? Oops -- they don't publish that any more, do they?

Clifton Coles

Hyattsville, Maryland

Codrescu's Bookish Bravery

Just when I had given up on finding an honest opinion in this state, along comes Andrei Codrescu and Gambit Weekly. Having moved here from Dallas over a year ago, my husband and I have been hard pressed to find a decent bookstore in our area. We live on the Northshore, which is seemingly deficient in independent booksellers. Our default became B&N. We finally arrived at much the same conclusion as Mr. Codrescu ("The Barnes & Noble in Baton Rouge," April 30), that customer service seems to mean "able to ring up a sale without the manager's help," rather than "able to speak knowledgeably about the books we carry," or better yet "able to recommend a book based on first-hand information." We began to feel we were buying books from a fast food bookstore with fine dining prices.

Our money is now better spent buying books on the Internet, trips to our favorite booksellers in Dallas and, yes, on the toll for the Causeway, where we make a day of The Maple Street Children's Bookstore, the Garden District Bookshop and the soon-to-be-closed Great Acquisitions. We are greeted (greeted!) with offers of help and sometimes coffee (free!) and know that we can ask a question without fear of stunning the employee into a stupor.

Thank you for being brave enough to stand up for these independent booksellers and for us, the independent book buyers. We will continue to peruse Gambit for Codrescu's opinions.

Kelli R. Simon

Marc's Failing Marks

New Orleans, while underrated for its contribution to American society, is also plagued with rampant self-aggrandizement. Small accomplishments become heroic achievements. Add to that the insufferably vainglorious tendency to benchmark the performance of our elected officials not by comparison to the rest of America but to our own past governance. Thus we say that Marc Morial ("Marc's Marks," May 7) did much for reducing crime and increasing pay for police, forgetting our incredibly high crime and the poverty-wage salary for cops.

A great job? Only by New Orleans standards. A good job improving the airport? Incredible. That tiny, sad little cow of local patronage needs to be torn down to pave the way for a new one. Short of that, there is no "improvement." Perhaps Morial should consider that Charlotte can afford to lose the Hornets because their airport (in a city 10 notches behind us population-wise) has 65 gates to our paltry 42.

Morial's talents stop where his charisma and charm end. The challenge is to define his legacy by the standards of the greater society. When one does that, his name is mud. Eight years of economic prosperity? One Fortune 500 Company, Entergy, remains here -- and they, by many accounts, would love to get out.

Public schools? Nearly the worst in the nation. Teacher pay? Near the lowest in the nation. Poverty? One of the highest rates in the country.

An atmosphere of entrepreneurial allowance? Hardly. Business is encouraged to stay away. We are the laughingstock of the nation in this respect, whipped repeatedly by Mississippi. Flood protection and coastal erosion? Nothing. You could write a thesis on the squandered opportunities, small-mindedness and dull vision of this administration.

Judge Morial? Read the second to last paragraph of the article: "Change becomes the enemy." Indeed. He owned up to that belief in spades.

Geoffrey J. Douville